The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails review

This hack ‘n slash RPG hybrid was originally released on the PSP in 2012. You might not have heard of it until now, and that’s because it was never translated and brought to the West. With the success of the Switch making portable and smaller scale RPGs viable again, developer Falcom has decided to fancy-up the graphics and translate the text to finally bring Nayuta to a worldwide audience.

Nayuta is an interesting, but also smart, choice to update. It has the Trails in the name but isn’t connected to the wider world of the series. So, if you’re a casual RPG-enjoyer like myself, you’ll have no problems following the story. And while it bares RPG features, it focuses on platforming and slashing enemies with a sword, meaning pretty much anyone can pick it up and play it.

It’s also really charming. Sure, the story is a bit hokey and trapped in the past – involving different worlds, crystals and fairies – but the entire thing emits a pure early 2010’s vibe. It has the wonderful atmosphere of older RPGs distilled into a smaller, more streamlined package: a beautiful soundtrack, a quaint village with stories to listen to, a blue skied beach and a tide that ebbs and flows, and there are items to collect but not an overwhelming amount. There are things here we haven’t seen since the days of Final Fantasy X and the older Ys games.

Let’s talk about one thing first – there are telling signs this was made for the PSP originally, with the most telling of all being the camera set-up. While running, jumping and battling enemies, the camera is very zoomed in. Your character seems massive, and everything is super-sized and chunky, including the UI.

As the life of the Switch has gone on, I’ve felt that more and more games have become TV first, with portable play an afterthought. I’ve played many games with tiny text, or graphics that don’t read well on the original Switch’s small screen. Nayuta is different. It’s a joy to play here as everything is readable and the graphics look fantastic when scaled down. It doesn’t look bad on the TV, either. Sure, it was originally a PSP game – and the animations and some scenery gives this away – but Falcom have put real effort into reviving it to make it look the part. It has been ported with care.

It mainly takes place in 3Dish side scrolling platform levels that are picked from a Super Mario-esqe world selection screen. There’s also a village that you can return to from time to time to get meals cooked for you, that work as healing items, and upgrade your weapons and armour. You can also chat with the local folk…and make a cow moo.

Each world has a decent amount of variety, which is enhanced further by the ability to play them during different seasons, remixing the stages with new enemy types. There’s also the tiniest element of Metroidvania here, as a few stages have paths you can unlock with abilities learned later.

These abilities actually allow the game a decent amount of forward momentum. Each level is scored, awarding a certain number of stars, and stars give you the ability to unlock new fighting techniques. What starts with a simple B-to-attack system evolves into blocking, dodging and charging techniques. There’s a lot to unlock in the fighting system and it gives you a reason to go back through completed stages to try and improve scores.

As well as platforming stages, most worlds also have bosses. Some fights are great. There’s one against a giant fish that really would have blown our minds in 2012. Others are awful, like a giant spider that has a huge defence and takes an age to defeat. Similar difficulty spikes can bog the experience.

Special skills are also unlocked through story progress. Some are useful – like the charge swipe which breaks cracked walls. Others, like the grappling power, are more hassle than they’re worth, and the experience would be better without them. In fact, the grappling power is easily the worst thing here, with controls I never managed to master, leading to persistent frustration. Worse still, the grappling skill is required throughout.

Minor faults aside, Falcom’s attention to detail amounts to a package that’s slick and well-put together. They’ve picked a brilliant RPG to resurrect. It’s enough to make us wonder what other lost treasures dwell within the PSP’s library…

Published by NiS America, Nihon Falcom’s The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is out now on PS4, Switch, and PC.